An Exegetical Commentary
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 11 July 2011; Revised 9 April 2017
Scripture: The Scripture text of Revelation used below is prepared by Blaine Robison with consideration given to the American Standard Version (which is in the public domain) and the Nestle-Aland Greek New Testament. The essentially literal translation seeks to reflect the Jewish character of the author and writing. See my web article The Jewish New Testament. Other Bible versions are also quoted. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Most versions can be accessed on the Internet. Messianic Jewish versions are CJB, DHE, GNC, HNV, MW, OJB, & TLV.
Sources: Bibliographic data for sources cited may be found at the end of the chapter commentary. Works without page numbers are cited ad loc. The Septuagint (LXX) is the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, which was in use by Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. Click here for Talmud Abbreviations. For works by early church fathers go to Christian Classics Ethereal Library.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the definitions of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009). See the Greek Guide for the meaning of grammar abbreviations. Definitions of Hebrew words are from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981). The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online.
Vocabulary: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of the apostolic canon and its central figure I use the terms Tanakh (Old Testament), Torah (Law), Besekh (New Testament), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ).
The New Creation (21:1-4)
1― And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there was no longer any sea.
And I saw a new: Grk. kainos means "new," either (1) of recent origin, or (2) different and superior in quality relative to something old. Another meaning is "better, of higher excellence." heaven: Grk. ouranos, the area above the earth that encompasses the sky, interstellar space and associated phenomena or the transcendent dwelling-place of God. In the LXX ouranos translates the Heb. hashamayim ("the heavens"). See the note on 3:12 for "heaven." Significant is that John uses the singular form of ouranos throughout Revelation (except 12:12). Scripture identifies at least three heavens (2Cor 12:2). In terms of direction from the ground level of the earth the first heaven is the atmosphere or "face" of hashamayim, across which birds fly (Gen 1:20; Rev 19:17). The second heaven is interstellar space (Gen 1:1, 8; Matt 24:29), populated with the sun, moon and stars on the fourth day of creation. Finally, the third heaven is the location of the throne of God and the home of angels (1Kgs 8:30; Matt 6:9; 2Cor 12:2).The third heaven, the place of Godís abode, has not been tainted by sin and needs no renovation or replacement.
The first heaven (atmosphere), the earth (land) and the sea contain the three essential ingredients for life on this planet Ė air, water and soil for growing food. No other planet in this solar system, perhaps in the universe, is so uniquely suited for human life. These three components also make up the hydrological cycle. Water evaporates from the sea, rises into the atmosphere where it condenses, then is released by the atmosphere as precipitation on the land, and finally runs back to the sea to start the cycle again. At present the hydrologic cycle, which is at the mercy of mysterious chaotic wind currents, delivers too much or too little water where it is needed. However, "heaven" likely includes the second heaven, interstellar space, since the opening clause parodies Genesis 1:1, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
and a new earth: John saw the fulfillment of a long held expectation that God would provide a world of productive agriculture free of weather problems and without frustrating toil (Isa 65:17-25; 66:10-24; Mic 4:1-8; Zech 8:2-6, 11ff). The "new earth" would be a place in which death would be banished, the land would be abundantly fruitful, formerly carnivorous animals would become plant-eaters and cohabit with herbivorous animals, world peace would be assured, and Jerusalem established as the center of education in Godís law and worship of the Creator.
However, Godís interest in a new earth is more oriented to the character of life than the subsistence of its inhabitants. God had assured His people of a totally new earth that would be free of the corruption resulting from the original curse and in which righteousness would dwell (Rom 8:19-22; 2Pet 3:13; cf. Isa 60:21; 65:17; 66:22). What was begun with the inauguration of the reign of the Messiah at Yeshuaí first advent, modeled by the saints during the present age, and practiced for the thousand years of the Lordís millennial Kingdom is now elevated to an eternal condition.
for the first Ö passed away: Grk. aperchomai, aor., means to go away, depart or pass away. NETN adds "to go out of existence or to cease to exist." Yeshua had told His disciples that "heaven and earth will pass away" (Mark 13:31) and now His words are fulfilled. Three views were common among Jewish rabbis about the end of the earth. Some believed that the existing earth would be renovated and made new so that it would return to its original state at the seventh day of creation, but free from sin and evil. Others taught the earth would be returned to its original state on the first day of creation and then recreated with a new cleansed existence, and still other rabbis taught that the earth would be completely destroyed and a brand new heaven and new earth would be created in its place (Rienecker).
The text is not without its difficulties in settling the matter between the rabbinical options. Scripture teaches that God does not rehabilitate that which is cursed, but creates entirely new out of nothing just as He did at the beginning (cf. Rom 8:20ff; 2Cor 5:17; Heb 11:3). In addition, the Greek word for "new" in the text indicates a heaven and earth that have not existed before. Taking another approach to the text might support the renovation interpretation. The word "earth" could be translated "land" and with the juxtaposition of "land" with "heaven (or sky) and "sea" the verb "passed away" could then be interpreted to mean "came to an end." In other words, the world (not the planet) as we know it will cease, just as the world as Noah knew it before the global flood ceased to exist. At this point in the narrative the wicked have been sent away to hell and the righteous have taken up residence in the New Jerusalem. Given the choice between renovation, re-creation and a new creation, a new creation seems most likely (even preferable). "Passed away" then refers the reader back to 20:11 where the heaven and earth "fled away" from Godís presence immediately before the great white throne judgment took place.
and there was no longer any sea: The absence of a sea in the new earth is an interesting detail to mention since God created the sea in the beginning when everything was good (Gen 1:9-10). While Scripture does not mention man as traversing the seas before Noah, there is evidence of early shipbuilding. Man has traversed the seas for thousands of years. It is possible the new earth will not need to maintain the hydrologic cycle because either animals and glorified bodies will not need water or water will be provided from a totally different system, perhaps from a subterranean network of springs as those which watered the early earth (Gen 2:6; 8:2).
2― And I saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband.
And I saw the holy: The descriptive adjective does not merely describe what is set apart for God, but what is qualitatively pure and devoid of all sin. city: Grk. polis, the term applied in the apostolic writings to a population center without respect to size or number of inhabitants, generally translated as city or town. Readers should consider when interpreting the significance of the city that polis occurs nine times in this chapter, whereas there is no use of the term ekklēsia. new: Grk. kainos. See the note on the previous verse.
Jerusalem: Grk. Hierosoluma, a rough transliteration of the Heb. Yerushalayim, which means possession or foundation of peace (BDB 436). The second word to be written on the overcomer is the name of God's city. What a precious name is Jerusalem! The name of Godís holy city occurs only three times in Revelation, all in reference to the "new" Jerusalem. For the faithful Jew the city of Jerusalem that had been captured from the Jebusites and made Israelís capital by David represented all that was dear in the covenant relationship with God. One psalmist expressed his affection thus, "If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget her skill, may my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy" (Ps 137:5-6).
The massive municipality was not a figment of his imagination and it was not the Jerusalem he knew, although the old Jerusalem was holy to God (Isa 52:1). Of course, the earthly Jerusalem could never completely fulfill the longing of Abraham, who looked for a city "whose architect and builder is God" (Heb 11:10), nor his descendants, who desired a "better country, that is a heavenly one" (Heb 11:16). The saints in apostolic times also earnestly desired to see "the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem" (Heb 12:22); "we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come" (Heb 13:14). Paul declared that the saintís citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3:20) and that the heavenly city "is our mother" (Gal 4:26).
coming down out of heaven from God: Since the millennial Jerusalem obviously passed away with the first earth, John saw New Jerusalem "coming down out of heaven," a fulfillment of the prophecy first given to the congregation of Philadelphia (3:12), although there is no indication of its final location. John does not specify which of the three heavens he intends, but the phrase "from God" would favor the third heaven, the place of Godís abode. The mention of the source, as well as the name of the city, indicates that the New Jerusalem is not a synonymous term for heaven.
made ready: Grk. etoimazō, perf. pass. part., to put in a state of readiness, to make preparations. as a bride adorned: Grk. kosmeō, perf. pass. part., to make orderly, to put in order, to adorn, to decorate, to make beautiful or attractive. The word "adorned" is reminiscent of the practice in Johnís day in which, in preparation for the arrival of the groom, the bride was bathed, oiled and perfumed, her hair was fixed and she was adorned with her wedding garment (Rienecker). Both participles affirm that beauty is inherent in the cityís design as a substantive characteristic. The perfect tense of the verbs points to its creation in the past and continuing existence to the present. The passive voice emphasizes that the origin of its beauty came from the Creator of the universe.
While the fabric of this passage has powerful spiritual meaning it should not be missed that the last chapters of Revelation are really a "tale of two cities." Babylon is pictured as a harlot and the mother of abominations, a city of the earth of many peoples devoted to worldliness (17:15). New Jerusalem, built by God instead of man, is pure and beautiful as a virgin bride, yet is a city occupied by the people of God. In 19:7-8 the people of God are described as a bride (cf. Isa 62:5); here the place of God is described as being prepared as a bride. In 19:7 the "bride has made herself ready" for God, whereas here God has made the city ready for His bride. The simile points to the purity of both the city and the bride of Yeshua and a new beginning of an eternal relationship. The beauty of the bride of God certainly stands in contrast to the gaudiness of the great harlot (17:1-5).
3― And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be among them,
And I heard a loud voice: John has previously reported hearing various "loud" voices and now hears one again. from the throne: The Majority Text and the Textus Receptus have "out of heaven," instead of "from the throne," which is favored by early MSS (WH Text; NA27) and, consequently, modern versions. It is interesting that the John Wesley's New Testament (published in the next century after the original 1611 KJV) has "from the throne." Metzger says the reading "out of heaven" appears to be an assimilation to the same phrase in verse 2 (688). This "loud voice" comes from the throne, perhaps meaning the vicinity of Godís throne (see the note on 16:17). The unnamed speaker may be the Lordís angel (1:1; cf. 19:5) who was charged with overseeing Johnís Revelation experience. On the other hand "the throne" could serve as an oblique euphemism for God in the same way as Americans use "White House" to refer to the President, and with that interpretation God would be the speaker.
Behold, the tabernacle: Grk. skēnē. Grk. skēnē means tent, booth, lodging, dwelling. In the LXX skēnē renders the Hebrew words Ďohel (a pointed tent), sometimes mishkan (dwelling) and on occasion sukkah (a matted booth, shed or hut). See 13:6 on "tabernacle." of God is among men: There is no verb in the introductory clause in the Greek. The literal translation would be "the tabernacle of God with men" (Marshall). The announcement of the "tabernacle of God" being among men is the fulfillment of Godís promise to Israel, "Moreover, I will make My dwelling among you, and My soul will not reject you. I will also walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people" (Lev 26:11-12). The Tabernacle of ancient Israel was a special place of Godís dwelling and presence on earth. Yet, Solomon knew the limitations of the Tabernacle and the Temple he built and asked, "But will God indeed dwell with mankind on the earth?" (2Chr 6:18) The Lord answers a resounding "Yes!"
and He will dwell: Grk. skēnoō, fut., lit. "spread His tabernacle." among them: Solomonís question was answered in part by the first coming of Yeshua. John says of that time, "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us." The word "dwelt" literally means "tabernacled," an allusion to the Hebrew Tabernacle. What had dwelt in mystery hidden behind the curtain of the Holy of Holies now lived in human flesh. During the Old Covenant people went to the Tabernacle to meet with God, but now God literally walked among His people. Godís Tabernacle in the person of Yeshua dwelled for 30 years on earth in the first century, continues to reside in hearts by the Holy Spirit, but one day the resurrected and glorified Messiah will bring His city to earth and establish permanent residency among His people.
and they will be His people: Grk. laos. Greek MSS are divided between the singular form of laos (people) and the plural form laoi (peoples) (GNT 890). While the Nestle-Text adopted the plural form, believing the MS evidence stronger, the translators of the KJV, NIV and NASB all chose to translate the word as singular. The CJB chose the plural form on the basis that the word in context obviously refers to more than just ethnic Israel. In the Tanakh the word "people" referred to Israel as the elect nation (cf. Jer 31:32; Ezek 37:27; Zech 8:8). However, thanks to the abundant grace of God Gentiles have been grafted into the holy nation so that there is only one people, one body of the Messiah (Rom 11:17; Eph 2:11-22, 3:6, 4:4-5; 1Pet 3:10).
and God Himself will be among them: Not only will the city of many rooms descend to earth, but the saints will experience an intimate fellowship with the Lord. The Lord will not be like human rulers who historically kept themselves apart from the masses or who only visited the people to assure their reelection. The Lord Yeshua will be out among the people just as He was when He first walked the earth. The experience awaiting the saints is truly beyond what anyone can even begin to imagine (1Cor 2:9). The KJV, CJB, DRA, MSG, NCV, NIV, NKJV, and TEV add "and be their God" at the end of the verse. The MS evidence is divided, but the inclusion is justified on the grounds that the declaration probably alludes to Ezekiel 37:27 (cf. Zech 8:8).
4― and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be death; there shall no longer be mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away."
and He shall wipe away every tear: The Lord reiterates the prophecy to Isaiah: "He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces, and He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken" (Isa 25:8) and "They will find gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing will flee away" (Isa 35:10). The God who has always cared for His children now performs the most tender act that a father could ever do. The gentle wiping of tears means both the giving of His blessed comfort and the ending of everything that has caused pain and suffering in this life. The penalty of death and its consequences were part of the first earth and the first Adamís sin. there shall no longer be Ö crying: Grk. kraugē means shouting or clamor of excited persons. Kraugē occurs only six times in the apostolic writings and here, as four times in the LXX, refers to crying in grief or anxiety. Mourning, crying and pain all result from death Ė death of the body, death of dreams and death of expectations. But since the first earth has passed away, so everything associated with it has passed away.
The Water of Life (21:5-8)
5― And the One sitting on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." And He said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true."
I am making all things new: Since the "first things" have passed away the God who rules from the throne of the heaven announces His new order, something that only He has the power to create. God promises to make things "new," a word that speaks of such excellence as cannot be imagined by man. It is human nature and curiosity to muse about what the "new" or second things might be. With no more death or any cause of suffering, one may wonder whether life will be boring. Will the "new" things be just sameness and routine? In this life accomplishment is often experienced and measured from overcoming conflict and challenge. What satisfaction will the "new" things provide? This chapter serves to open the vistas of that future life. Not only will God make things new in originality and quality, but He will also keep them new. The Law of Entropy by which everything now decays will be repealed. There will be no more aging, no erosion, no rusting or any other evidence of things wearing out.
Write: Again, the Lord commands John to "write," which emphasizes the divine verbal inspiration of Revelation. (See 1:11 on the command to "write.") for these words: pl. of Grk. logos vocalized expression, word, discourse, statement, message or speech. In the LXX logos stands principally for Heb. dabar, which has a range of meaning "speech, word, report, command, advice, counsel, thing, matter" (Gen 29:13; BDB 182) (DNTT 3:1087). are faithful: Grk. pistos, characterized by constancy and therefore worthy of trust; faithful, reliable or trustworthy.
and true: Grk. alēthinos means true, dependable, according to the truth, genuine, and real. The Lord assures the reader in the strongest terms that the sufferings of this life will one day yield to a glorious eternity. The phrase "faithful and true" especially emphasizes that Godís description of the perfect future is accurate and His promises to bring it to pass are infallible and utterly dependable. The phrase would also apply to the entire book. John did not borrow from former prophets to provide a placebo for pacifying people in pain. The Lord spoke and inerrantly revealed to John to truth about his present and our future.
6― Then he said to me, "It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one thirsting from the spring of the water of life without cost.
It is done: Grk. ginomai, perf., to transfer from one state or condition to another, often with the sense of coming into being. The perfect tense of the verb signifies both a completed event and its continuing results. The verb is third person plural and the intent of the verb might be better conveyed by "they are done," referring back to the creation of the new heavens and new earth. However, modern versions treat the verb as a collective plural and thus translate it in the singular.
The declaration of completion is a guarantee of the accomplishment of the new heavens and a new earth and their eternal duration because God has spoken it. The saints will not have to wait billions of years for the promised perfect home to "evolve." When God says something is done thereís nothing left to do (cf. Gen 2:3). When Yeshua cried, "it is finished" (John 19:30) everything necessary for salvation of the human race was accomplished. God knew the need for His children long before this day and His planning and design will preclude any remodeling.
I am the Alpha and the Omega: Grk. Alpha kai to O (or Alpha and Omega). "Alpha" and "Omega" are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet and correspond to "Alef" (or "Aleph") and "Tav" of the Hebrew alphabet. In Rabbinical proverbs the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet were considered to be symbols of the beginning and the end and everything in between, thus reflecting total integration. God was in the beginning and He will be in the end and He is sovereign over all the ages between those two points.
In addition, the Jewish expression "the observers of the Law from Alef to Tav" refers to those that keep the Torah in its entirety (Shab. 55a). Yeshua, the perfect Son of God and Son of Man kept the Torah without failure and thus could be deemed "sinless" (Acts 3:14; 2Cor 5:21; Heb 4:15; 1Pet 2:22; 1Jn 3:5). Being the end of the Torah does not mean that Yeshua terminated the Torah, but that he was the goal at which the Torah aimed and so he fulfilled its purpose (Matt 5:17f; Luke 24:27).
the beginning: Grk. archē can mean beginning, origin, rule or authority. Archē comes from the same root word as archēgos, which means leader, ruler, prince, or one who begins something (cf. Heb 12:2). Yeshua adds the explanatory phrase, "the beginning and the end," which may assert the Lordís absolute transcendence over all creation, as well as His infallible wisdom and limitless knowledge. As the "beginning," Godís omnipotent rule came before anything was created, as Moses says, "In the beginning God" (Gen 1:1). God reminded Israel, "Who has performed and accomplished it, calling forth the generations from the beginning? I, the Lord, am the first, and with the last. I am He." (Isa 41:4).
Johnís Gospel declares, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and God was the Word. This one was in the beginning with God" (John 1:1-2 mine). (See my commentary on John 1.) The eternal Son was there in the beginning with the eternal Father, which means that His omnipotent creative power existed before all things. All things created have their beginnings in Yeshua. Indeed, Genesis, the book of beginnings, sets forth the true history that the origin of the universe, the origin of life on earth, the origin of the earth as it is now, the origin of languages, and the origin of Godís people, all came from God.
and the end: Grk. telos, a point in time that marks culmination. BAG defines this point of time in the sense of either (1) termination or cessation of something; (2) the last part or conclusion of something; or (3) the goal toward which a movement is directed. Telos occurs 150 times in the LXX, chiefly in adverbial combinations and often to translate the Heb. qets, "end" (DNTT 2:60). The Hebrew word qēts is most often used of time, especially in phrases that speak of the end of a definite time period (e.g., Gen 8:6; 2Sam 15:7; 2Kgs 18:3), indefinitely of the passing of a time (e.g., Gen 4:3; 1Kgs 17:7), the end of a people (Jer 51:13), or the end of an individual (Job 6:11; Dan 11:45) (BDB 893).
In Daniel "the end" has an eschatological sense as the end of the age and conclusion of God's sovereign plan (Dan 8:17, 19; 9:26; 11:35, 40; 12:9). In this verse "the end" is probably shorthand for the "end of the age" (cf. Dan 12:13; Matt 13:39, 40, 49; 24:3; 28:20). Taking all the linguistic data into account Yeshua is the telos in that he is the goal toward which history is moving, the "hinge," the turning point that transitions time from the present age to the age to come and the millennial kingdom. God is the goal of life. We came from Him and we shall return to Him. He will also bring about the perfection of the new heavens and new earth. Since God is everlasting, existing from eternity past to eternity future, He can grant assurance of His grand purposes, as Isaiah says:
"Remember this, and be assured; recall it to mind, you transgressors. Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasureí; I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off; and My salvation will not delay. And I will grant salvation in Zion, and My glory for Israel" (Isa 46:8-10, 13).
I will give Ö the water of life: Since God owns the river of the water of life (22:1; cf. my comment on John 7:37-39), He freely offers it to those who thirst (22:17), a promise of particular meaning to those who lived in the arid climate of the Middle East. Just as Yeshua promised the Samaritan woman free living, or everlasting, water (John 4:14), so now all those who thirst for God find their longing quenched (cf. Ps 42:1). While the "water of life" is used as a metaphor there is a reality that stands behind it. Seventeenth century explorers searched for the fountain of youth in America, not realizing that it only exists in Godís presence.
without cost: Grk. dorean means a gift, without payment or gratis. The assurance of "without cost" pertains to the one who thirsts and may be contrasted with the fact that providing the water of life cost the Son of God His life on the cross. However, "without cost" has particular reference to payment of money and if God were to charge for it man has not the means to pay. The incident of Simon the magician asking to buy the power of the Holy Spirit illustrates the folly of reducing Godís spiritual gifts to a financial transaction (Acts 8:18-21). The saints come to Godís city empty handed, since the wealth of this life cannot be transferred to the next and no currency is required in heaven to enjoy its amenities.
7― "The one overcoming shall inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son.
The one overcoming: Grk. nikaō, pres. part., means to be a victor, to prevail, to conquer, to overcome or to vanquish, whether in a military battle, athletic contest, or a legal action. Nikaō occurs 28 times in the Besekh, over half of which occur in Revelation, often in a spiritual sense of overcoming evil. The verb "overcomes" points to the reality of spiritual warfare. The word refers to victory over the believerís two chief enemies in this life Ė Satan (1Jn 2:13) and the world (1Jn 5:4). To win against the enemies of every believer requires courage, an uncompromising loyalty to Yeshua, even in the face of death, and a willingness to put God first in every area of life.
shall inherit: Grk. klēronomeō, fut., means to inherit or be a legal heir. The word also means to acquire, obtain or come into possession of something. these things: David had asked, "Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord? And who may stand in His holy place?" (Ps 24:3). The answer, occurring seven times in Revelation, is "he who overcomes," and these will inherit all the blessings of the new earth and the New Jerusalem (2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21).
An alternative translation of "inherit" is "take possession of," a popular Jewish expression pertaining to the future age (Earle). Overcoming and inheriting really go hand in hand. Yeshuaí letters to the congregations warn that failure to "overcome" sin, the flesh and the devil will result in loss of eternal blessing. Overcomers also maintain their faith in God regardless of the test or trial. In Revelation overcomers are particularly noted for their victory over Satan, the great dragon (12:11).
I will be his God: To those who overcome God offers a blessed assurance. "I will be his God" fulfills the promise given to Abraham and his descendants, including those who are his seed by faith (Gen 17:7; 4:16ff). To be "his God" emphasizes the adequacy to provide every spiritual and physical need. and he will be My son: The next great blessing to accrue to the overcomer is a personal relationship with God of such intimacy and affection that He uses the personal description of "my son." The blessing of being a "son" echoes the promise given to David (Ps 89:26f) and Solomon (2Sam 7:14).
Yeshua's statement is not sexist, but includes a blessing for women. In ancient culture women had no inheritance rights, but God makes it clear that all overcomers, including women, will receive the full benefit as a firstborn son (cf. Num 27:7). By virtue of this welcome the saints can even now call Him "daddy" (Rom 8:15). The significance of these simple words is that all of the hurts of this life resulting from uncaring parents, abuse, divorce, distance and death will be soothed away by the Father who in the most tender love wipes away all tears and introduces His children to the eternal joys of His security.
8― "But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and prostitutes and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death."
Those not worthy to be called "son" will spend their eternity in the loveless confines of hell. The rogueís list of those guilty of capital crimes is similar to those found in Paulís letters (1Cor 5:11; 6:9f; Gal 5:19ff; Eph 5:5; 1Tim 1:9f). The sinful characteristics are well beyond falling short of the glory of God.
But for the cowardly: Grk. deilos, which occurs only three times in the apostolic writings, means cowardly, timid or fearful. Yeshua used this word to describe the disciples when they allowed their fear of the storm to override their faith in the Master of the waves (Matt 8:26; para Mark 4:40). The "cowardly" are those who "abandon ship" rather than pay the cost of discipleship, such as Judas (Matt 10:4) and Demas (2Tim 4:10). When Pliny (ca. 62-113), the governor of Bithynia, was examining people to see whether or not they were Christians, he wrote a letter to Emperor Trajan seeking advice on prosecuting Christians, in which he said that some admitted they had been Christians, but they had ceased to be so many years ago, "some as much as twenty years ago" (Ludwig 107).
While there were many faithful witnesses in the apostolic and early church eras who laid down their lives for Yeshua, like Antipas (Rev 2:13), there were others whose faith did not stand the test of fire. Cowardice alludes to the continuing war against the enemy of our souls (Eph 6:12; 1Pet 5:8). Yeshua warned in his Olivet Discourse that when faced with tribulation "many will fall away and will betray one another" (Matt 24:10). This is why Paul exhorted the Corinthian disciples, "Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong" (1Cor 16:13).
and unbelieving: Grk. apistos means faithless or unbelieving. The word combines the negative particle "a" with pistos, which means full of faith or faithful. In this context the "unbelieving" refers primarily to those who refuse to accept the good news of salvation and the merits of Yeshuaís atonement (Acts 19:19; 28:24). However, the Hebrew concept of faith not only means to trust but to be faithful and so the word could be translated as "the unfaithful" and include those who turn away from Him after having begun the journey of faith (cf. Luke 9:62; 2Tim 4:10; Heb 3:12; 10:38f).
Throughout biblical history "unbelief" beset not only pagan peoples, but Israelites as well. In fact, unbelief kept many of the people Moses led out of Egypt from entering the Promised Land (Heb 3:19) and kept the residents of Nazareth from experiencing Godís power through Yeshua (Matt 13:58). Unbelief and unfaithfulness stretch the very limits of Godís patience, and in the end deprives one of eternal life (Mark 9:19; Luke 12:46; Heb 3:12).
and abominable: Grk. bdelussō, perf. mid. part., has the force of an adjective and means one who pollutes, defiles, makes detestable, or commits abomination. The word indicates persons who do not merely commit idolatrous acts, but whose very natures have been saturated with monstrous and unnatural vices (Rienecker). See 17:4 on "abominations." The abominable are those who engage in shockingly bad behavior that stinks in the nostrils of God as dung does to man. These are people who revel in their popularity with no moral compass or constraints but yet are often lionized in the popular entertainment press.
and murderers: pl. of Grk. phoneus, one who unlawfully takes another human life, a violation of the sixth commandment. In Scripture the definition of murder does not include killing in self-defense or killing in war. The apostolic writings depict various kinds of murder, including killing Godís messengers (Matt 23:34), parents (1Tim 1:9), babies (Matt 2:16), and siblings (1Jn 3:12). Even hatred brings the charge of murder (Matt 5:21f; 1Jn 3:15), but the condemnation here focuses on those who commit the physical act of murder, particularly the henchmen of the beast (13:15). Those who have no regard for human life and treat it as expendable for expediency sake, as well as those who aid and abet the taking of innocent life, will receive the same treatment in the end.
and prostitutes: pl. of Grk. pornos would include those who engage in the various sexual acts forbidden in the Torah (Lev 18Ė19). A pornos referred to a male prostitute, a man who frequented prostitutes or an habitually immoral man (1Cor 5:11) (DNTT 1:497). (See 2:20 on "immorality.") While popular culture condones all manner of sexual conduct, state legislatures continue to lower the age of consent and even many churches exercise "tolerance," God decreed sexual expression to be limited to the covenant of companionship found in marriage as defined and depicted in Scripture. Every sexual act outside of marriage is a capital crime in Godís Law and the offenders will reap what they sow (Heb 13:4).
and sorcerers: Grk. pharmakos is one who mixes and uses drugs that were used either in sorcery or magic practices (Rienecker). However, sorcery, in contrast to normal use of medicines, relied on occultic powers, thus bringing condemnation. Today, sorcery could include the misuse of chemicals or illicit drugs for pleasure, as well as occult purposes. (See Kurt Koch, Occult ABC, for an encyclopedic guide to the many forms of sorcery.)
and idolaters: pl. of Grk. eidololtrēs. "Idolaters" are, of course, worshipers of false gods or anything made by man and exalted above God, including money (Matt 6:24; Col 3:5). The supreme form of idolatry is the lie of Satan in the Garden that men can be gods, which continues to be taught in various cults. When the creature becomes the Creator all limits on sinfulness are jettisoned. Worship of self invariably leads to the devaluing of life and in the end receives its just reward, eternal death.
and all liars: pl. of Grk. pseudēs, adj., lit. "the false ones." Last, but not least, in the rogues list are "liars." The God of truth cannot abide a lie, so naturally those committed to deception and perversion of the truth are included. Satan is a liar, the originator of lying and the instigator of all the monstrous lies used to kill and destroy (John 8:44). One crucial truth defines a liar for John.
"Who is the liar, if not the one who denies that Yeshua is the Messiah? This one is the anti-messiah, the one who denies the Father and the Son." (1Jn 2:22 TLV)
Satan, operating through the power structures of this world, has long succeeded with the "big lie." Satan spawned all the false religions of the world to draw people away from the one true God of Israel and his Messiah, Yeshua. Otherwise good and sensible people will believe a big lie if it is told sincerely, emphatically and often. There is usually a greed motive associated with lying, but in the end all the advantage sought by the "liars" will disintegrate when confronted by the truth of God.
their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death: All those found guilty of these crimes against God will receive the most horrific punishment, confinement to the lake of fire. See 19:20 on "lake of fire." The reference to "fire and brimstone" indicates that the lake burns with intense heat and noxious fumes. Henry Morris notes that this is the last reference to "fire" in the Bible and like the first mention in Genesis 19:24 involves brimstone, both representing divine judgment on sin (DSB). The lake of fire is identified again as the "second death" (20:6, 14). The reminder is an ominous warning that eternal punishment follows the first death for those who have rejected Godís standards of holy living.
9― And one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, "Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb."
And one of the seven angels: With the conclusion of the Lordís exhortation one of the seven angels of the Presence and one whom God commissioned to execute justice and judgment, perhaps the same one as in 17:1ff, invites John to witness yet another incredible revelation. Come: Grk. deuro, adv. used as a verb, imp., the basic idea is position in the presence of the speaker with focus on immediacy; come! I will show: Grk. deiknumi, fut., may mean to show (1) so as to be observed by another, point out, make known; or (2) or so as to be understood by another, explain, demonstrate. you the bride: Grk. numphē, bride (Matt 25:1) or daughter-in-law (Matt 10:35). The use of numphē emphasizes virginal purity and stands in contrast with the harlot, pornē, of 17:1 (Robertson).
the wife: Grk. gunē may mean any adult female, but sometimes more specifically a married woman. Corresponding to the Heb. ishshah, gunē indicates a woman who belongs to a man, which for over 5,000 years was determined only by a decision of the parties and their parents and not by any religious or government authority. The double use of "bride" and "wife" alludes to the Jewish two-stage marriage system which treated a betrothed woman as a legal wife (Matt 1:18).
of the Lamb: Grk. arnion, first seen by John in 5:6, denotes a lamb as distinct from probaton, sheep. Arnion occurs 30 times in the Besekh, only one of which occurs outside of Revelation (John 21:15). Significant is that Revelation does not use Grk. amnos ("lamb"), which occurs only four times in the Besekh (John 1:29, 36; Acts 8:32; 1Pet 1:29) and is only used of a sacrificial lamb in the LXX. In Revelation arnion, a metaphor referring to Yeshua, represents the victorious Lamb that has accomplished redemption and is worthy of power and glory and in this context is the husband.
The chapter began with John's report of seeing the new Jerusalem coming out of heaven prepared as a bride. John certainly knows the difference between a bride and a city and everywhere else in Scripture when used metaphorically "bride" and "wife" refer to the people of God, not a physical dwelling (19:7; cf. Isa 49:18; 61:10; 62:5; John 3:29; 2Cor 11:2; Eph 5:25-27, 32). The heart of a city is its people, not the construction materials of its structures. The listener, then, hearing this passage read in the congregation might expect the reader to go on a describe a gathering, such as in 7:9, 14:1; 15:2; and 19:6. Instead what follows is a description of a city so glorious as to be beyond human intellect to grasp.
The angel's assertion parallels the assertion of Paul that, "the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother" (Gal 4:26). The terminology of "bride" used to refer to the saints in 19:7 and the fact that John is told he will see the "wife" of the Lamb has led many Christian commentators to interpret the vision of the New Jerusalem as only an inspiring symbol of the Body of Messiah in glory (cf. Eph 5:27). Believers, both individually and as a community, are described elsewhere in the apostolic writings as a temple (1Cor 3:16; 2Cor 6:16; Eph 2:21), but using the analogy of a temple to exhort believers about Godís expectation of holiness only works because there was a literal temple in Jerusalem with a well-known history.
Similarly, Yeshua in the Sermon on the Mount likened His disciples to a city established on a hill (Matt 5:14), probably referring to Jerusalem. In his sermon Yeshua did not recount physical details of the city, because the only point of comparison was the light the city gave off at night, which served as a symbol of the ministry God intended for Jerusalem to have to the nations (Isa 2:3; 49:6). Yet both city and its light were realities that no one would deny.
Paul in his letter to the Hebrews speaks symbolically of the community of believers as a mountain and a city, "but you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem" (Heb 12:22), and yet expresses the expectation of an actual dwelling place for the people of God (Heb 13:14). Peter makes the image more vivid when he says, "you yourselves, as living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be cohanim set apart for God to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to him through Yeshua the Messiah" (1Pet 2:5 CJB). Johnís report certainly has symbolic import, but the elaborate portrayal of dimensions and construction materials of the New Jerusalem is simply too much detail to explain for the vision to be only symbolic.
10― And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God,
Verses 10-14 comprise one compound sentence in the Greek offering a breathtaking description of New Jerusalem coming down from heaven (Mounce). Johnís experience is similar to Ezekiel (Ezek 40:1-2) and Yeshua (Matt 4:8) who were taken to mountains to view awesome sights. In a distinct juxtaposition to the incident in 17:3, John is taken away from Patmos by the Spirit to a great and high mountain to see the bride, the holy city. (See 1:10 and 17:3 on "in the Spirit.") Mountains always played an important role in biblical history. From the earliest time worship services were conducted on mountains (Gen 12:8f) and later Godís law was given on a mountain called Sinai (Neh 9:13).
Because Jerusalem was built on mountains and was considered Godís holy city, it could be called "my holy mountain Jerusalem" (Isa 66:20). Unfortunately, the old Jerusalem had been defiled by idolatry on "every mountain and hill" (Jer 16:16) and trampled by the Gentiles. Now John repeats his affirmation of verse 2, but emphasizes, perhaps with overwhelming joy, that the Spirit showed him the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down from heaven.
11― having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper.
having the glory of God: The opening phrase belongs grammatically with verse 10, since the participle "having" agrees with the noun "city" in verse 10 (Robertson). (See 1:6 on "glory.") The phrase may summarize the detailed description that follows, because the city radiates the dazzling splendor of Godís presence (cf. Ezek 43:2). Her brilliance: Grk. phostēr means radiance or luminary and occurs only twice in the apostolic writings, here and Philippians 2:15 where disciples are lights to the world. "Luminary" refers to something in which light is concentrated and then radiates (Rienecker). Yeshua is the light (phos) of the world (John 8:12) and so are His disciples (Matt 5:14) who derive their light from Him (Robertson).
was like a very costly: Grk. timios, a superlative meaning valuable, precious or costly. as a stone of crystal-clear jasper: "Crystal-clear" means that the surface was sparkling or shimmering like a crystal (Mounce). In ancient times "jasper" was used for any opaque precious stone (Rienecker). Of significance in the narrative is that the comparison of different parts of the city to various precious stones does not come from the angel. John draws on his own experience, as any observer would, to describe this awe-inspiring structure. Obviously, the eternal city is made of eternal materials and not materials of the earth that will be destroyed. The analogy to precious stones was probably determined based on their similarity of color or luminescence, rather than material composition.
12― having a great and high wall, having twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names having been written, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel.
having: Grk. echō, pres. part., to have, hold or possess with a wide range of application, here as in displaying a characteristic. a great and high wall: Grk. teichos, a wall, especially one surrounding a city. John noted that a wall that was both "great" and "high" encompassed the city. As contrasting dimensions "great" would probably refer to thickness. The height of the wall is not given, although the linear dimensions in verses 16 and 17 may have a bearing. Ancient cities needed walls to protect their residents but this wall is not needed for security. All enemies have been defeated and the cityís gates remain open all the time. Nonetheless the wall of the New Jerusalem serves as a constant reminder that security rests in the Architect and not in anything He has made (cf. Isa 26:1; Zech 2:5).
having twelve gates: Grk. pulon referred particularly to the large gate at the entrance of temples and palaces. Set into the wall John sees twelve gates. The twelve gates provide easy access to the city and perhaps are as high as the wall. It could be that each gate is really a gate tower (cf. 1Kgs 17:10; Acts 14:13) (Robertson). When the city of Jerusalem was rebuilt under Nehemiah it too had twelve gates, each gate with a distinctive name owing to its location or function. Moving counter-clockwise the names of the gates in Nehemiahís time were the Sheep Gate, the Fish Gate, the Old Gate, the Gate of Ephraim, the Valley Gate, the Refuse Gate, the Fountain Gate, the Water Gate, the Horse Gate, the Gate of the Guard, the East Gate, and the Muster Gate (Neh 3; 12:39). All of these names have significant symbolic usage in Scripture to teach important spiritual lessons about oneís relationship with God and with one another.
and at the gates twelve angels: At each gate an angel serves as a greeter and guardian. After Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden God stationed cherubim to guard the way to the tree of life (Gen 3:24). In that time the angels prevented access, but in the final Paradise the angels will welcome humanity back to the source of life.
and names having been written: Grk. epigraphō, perf. pass. part., to write upon or inscribe. which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel: See the listing in 7:4-8. The gates of the New Jerusalem, or perhaps the wall above the gates, are inscribed with the names of the sons of Jacob, serving as a memorial to the descendants of Abraham who walked by faith and kept looking for this city (Heb 11:10). This statement is worthy of lengthy meditation. Absent are the names of well-known leaders in Christendom, not the church fathers and not the founders of the various divisions of Christianity. The constant presence of the tribal names of Israel on the city's gates will also serve as a powerful reminder of the truth Yeshua declared to the woman of Samaria, "salvation comes from the Jews" (John 4:22), and the good news of salvation through Yeshua is for the Jews first (Matt 10:5f; Mark 7:27; Rom 1:16; 2:9f). Moreover, Godís purpose was to redeem the whole world through Israel, so Gentiles only receive salvation by being granted citizenship in the commonwealth of Israel (Rom 11:17, 24; Eph 2:11ff). There simply is no people of God and no salvation for anyone apart from Israel (Rom 11:26).
13― three gates were on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west.
The four points of the compass indicate access and egress from all directions, and the equal distribution of the gates provides symmetry to the whole design. The directions of the compass all have their origin from human experience on earth. east: Grk. anatolē means "rising" and refers to the direction from which the sun rises. north: Grk. borras refers to the north wind. south: Grk. notos refers to the south wind. west: Grk. dusmē means "going down" and refers to the setting of the sun (Rienecker). The distribution of names by direction may commemorate the wilderness encampment of Israel in which the twelve tribes were equally divided around the four sides of the tabernacle (Num 2:3-31).
In the vision of Ezekiel the city of Jerusalem had twelve gates that bore the tribal names with Reuben, Judah and Levi on the north; Joseph, Benjamin, and Dan on the east; Simeon, Issachar and Zebulon on the south; and Gad, Asher and Naphtali on the west (Ezek 48:30-34). The fact that John says that the names are the "twelve tribes of the sons of Israel" may mean that the Ezekielís vision will be fulfilled rather than following the order of Numbers 2, which left out Levi and gave the two sons of Joseph separate places. While the gates are named for the tribes the entire city nonetheless bears the name of God, as Ezekiel says, "And from that day on the name of the city will be ADONAI Shamah [ADONAI is there]" (Ezek 48:35 CJB).
14― And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
And the wall of the city: Grk. polis. See verse 2 above. had: Grk. echō, pres. part. See verse 12 above. Though a participle the word does function independently as a principal verb (Robertson). twelve foundation stones: pl. of Grk. themelios, a structure serving as a firm base for something; foundation, occurring 15 times in the Besekh with both literal (Luke 6:48-49; 14:29) and figurative uses (Rom 15:20; 1Cor 3:10-12; Eph 2:20; 2Tim 2:19). The plural form of themelios occurs in Hebrews 11:10, which most Bible versions translates simply as "foundations," suggesting that the translation of "foundation stones" here was influenced by the mention of the inscription of apostolic names and the foundation characteristics mentioned in verse 19.
Some versions, as the NASB, render the Greek word as "foundation stones" (CEV, CJB, GNC, NCV, NLT, TEV, and WNT), whereas many other versions have simply "foundations" (ASV, CEB, DRA, ESV, GW, HCSB, HNV, KJV, LEB, MSG, NET, NIRV, NIV, NKJV, NRSV, RSV and TLV). Foundations of some ancient cities were usually formed of rows of huge stones that made up the wall, down to the bedrock. Excavations of Herodís construction of first-century Jerusalem revealed some very large stones measuring five feet wide, four feet high, and thirty feet long, weighing eighty to one hundred tons each and going down some fourteen to nineteen layers below the present ground level (Johnson).
and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles: See the list of names in my commentary on Mark 3:16-19. of the Lamb: Grk. arnion. See verse 9 above. There are three possible interpretations of Johnís description. The first option is that John identified twelve stones or blocks that made up the foundation of the city. These blocks may have comprised the totality of the foundation or simply were special blocks that stood out because of the inscription of the apostlesí names on them and their jewel-like characteristics listed in verse 19. The second option is that John was describing twelve foundations or rows of blocks, one on top of another, similar to the construction of ancient earthly cities. The third option is that John was speaking of twelve levels to the city, which is the view of this writer.
In any case, John was not likely influenced by ancient building codes or practices, but his description does conform to the expectation of Abraham who looked "for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God" (Heb 11:10). Just as the eternal covenant with Israel is remembered on the gates with the names of the twelve sons of Jacob, so the New Covenant is likewise memorialized with the names of the twelve apostles inscribed on the foundations, no doubt in a prominent place for public viewing. It must have been a humbling experience for John to see his name engraved for eternal posterity.
The only other complete reference to "the twelve apostles" occurs in Matthew 10:2 where Judas is included. After his death, the apostles cast lots to fill the vacancy resulting in the addition of Matthias, who thereafter was counted among "the twelve" (cf. Acts 1:24ff; 6:2; 1Cor 15:5). The inscription of the names of Yeshuaís first disciples is more than a tribute, but is a reminder of their authority since the Body of Messiah was "built on the foundation of the emissaries and the prophets, with the cornerstone being Yeshua the Messiah himself" (Eph 2:20 CJB). Paul employed the analogy of "foundation" by divine inspiration many years before John saw the reality. Symbolic applications in Scripture always have their basis in fact.
Many Christians, particularly in modern times, have denied apostolic authority (especially of the apostle Paul) by describing their pronouncements as culturally conditioned and therefore inapplicable to contemporary discipleship. Yet, Yeshua gave his apostles the legal authority to "bind" (meaning to prohibit or to restrict) and "loose" (or to permit) in his name (Matt 16:19). Paul asserted that he spoke in the name of the Lord (1Cor 14:37) and Peter regarded his writings as authoritative Scripture (2Pet 3:15f). The entire New Covenant Scriptures were the product of the Spirit-inspired apostles and any church or disciple that ignores any portion does so at its own peril.
The Size of the City (21:15-17)
15― And the one speaking with me had a gold measuring rod to measure the city, and its gates and its wall.
a gold measuring: Grk. metron means measure and may describe an instrument used to determine linear distance as here or the result of measuring as in verse 17. rod: Grk. kalamos. In normal usage kalamos indicates a reed that was often used for measuring with a Hebrew unit of measure equaling six cubits. A cubit was 17 to 18 inches long based on the length of the forearm from the elbow to the tip of the middle finger. The measuring rod of Ezekiel (Ezek 40:5) was about 10 feet long (Johnson).
to measure the city: The distances of the city, its wall and its gates are so great that an angel is needed to measure them and he uses a rod made of gold in keeping with divine service. Ezekiel records a very detailed account of being taken from Babylon to Jerusalem to witness an angel measure the temple there (Ezek 40:3, 5) and Zechariah speaks of an angel measuring the earthly Jerusalem (Zech 2:1-5). In Ezekielís situation the angel used a rod, or reed, that measured six cubits. The cubit was a Hebrew measure equal to the distance from the elbow to the finger tip, about 18 inches, so the angelís measuring rod was about nine feet long. It is very possible that the same type of rod was used to measure the New Jerusalem.
Measuring is a symbolic act, but what does the measuring mean? In 11:1 John had been told to measure the holy of holies of the earthly temple for its protection. Gregg suggests that in this vision the angel measures the New Jerusalem to indicate its permanence. In common usage, a construction worker measures to prepare something to fit or to confirm that some aspect of work conforms to the plan. God is concerned about exacting conformity to His will and Yeshua taught His disciples to pray that His will would be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matt 5:48; cf. Rom 8:29). God may have wanted John to be shown that His city perfectly conformed to the design of the Master Architect in contrast to Babylon, which fell miserably short. Only that which pleases God will be preserved for eternity.
16― And the city lies foursquare, and its length is as great as the width; and he measured the city with the rod, twelve thousand stadia; its length and width and height are equal.
The angel completed his task of measuring and reported the results to John. And the city lies: Grk. keimai, pres. mid., to lie or recline. foursquare: Grk. tetragonos means square or four cornered (Rienecker). The architectural shape of the city is first identified as a square with the length and width being of equal distance. and he measured the city with the rod, twelve: pl. of Grk. dōdeka, the numeral twelve. thousand: pl. of Grk. chilias, the number one thousand, lit. "thousands." stadia: pl. of Grk. stadion, a measure of distance roughly equivalent to 607 English feet or 192 meters (BAG). The NASB rendering of 1,500 miles may owe to the KJV substitution of "furlong" for "stade." A furlong is 660 English feet or 201 meters and 12,000 furlongs would equal 1,500 miles. its length and width and height are equal: Grk. isos means equal in number, size or quality.
Ezekielís account of measuring Jerusalem and the temple gives the length of each side, but John is given only a single number of 12,000 stadia, translated as 1,500 miles. This is a generous rounding up, since 12,000 stadia actually equals 1,380 miles. Some of the ancient rabbis taught that the walls of the New Jerusalem of Ezekiel would stretch to Damascus and the wall would be 1500 miles high (Robertson). If the linear distance of the length, width and height totals 12,000 stadia, then each side would be 1500 stadia in each direction. Unfortunately, the translation of modern versions obscures the symbolic significance of the narrative repetition of the number twelve, which represents Israel and the people of God (Juster 97).
Although the common interpretation by literalists is that the distance pertains to each side, a straightforward reading equally favors the number being the total of the perimeter of the base, since the measurement was of the "city" and not just one side. From the comment that the length, width and height are equal, a natural inference may be drawn that the city is constructed as a cube. If the entire city could be viewed as a temple (cf. 21:22), there may be a parallel to the perfect symmetry of the ancient holy of holies, also a cube (1Kgs 6:19f).
In pondering the size of the cube, some interpreters insist that "concrete visualizations obscure the symbolic meaning" of immensity and perfection (Mounce). However, neither the angel nor John offers any allegorical explanations and a symbol must have its objective reality to have any meaning in language. When Yeshua gave the promise of an eternal home the apostles may not have thought about how large it would have to be to provide for the needs of all the saints of history and the new disciples who would be brought into the Kingdom. If they could have seen the future the apostles might well have been led to consider that the future city would have to be immense to house millions, if not billions of Godís people. And, if the New Jerusalem is immense, then how immense is it? Surely, the angelís measurement is the answer!
The size of the New Jerusalem is a visual reminder that the Lordís holy city will easily house all the redeemed of history with room to spare. To illustrate the generous size letís use the conservative measurement of 3,000 stadia or 345 miles per side, which yields 41,063,625 cubic miles of space. There are 16,191 cubic acres per cubic mile, so depending on how many acres are allotted to each person there is still capacity for billions and billions of people. The saints will not be cramped for space! The interesting detail is that while the New Jerusalem is seen "coming down" from heaven, there is no report of the city being set on the earth.
Stern, though a literalist, struggles with the dimensions and asks the question many others only ponder: "Can one imagine it projecting so far from the earth without setting up gravitational and other forces that would destroy it?" There are many wonders on the earth and in the universe that defy "known laws of science" (the mantra of evolutionists). For example, the planet Uranus rotates on its axis in the opposite direction of the rest of the planets, and of the 31 planetary "moons" in the solar system, eleven have orbits that move in the opposite direction to the others. (Duane T. Gish, "The Solar System Ė New Discoveries Produce New Mysteries," IMPACT No. 15, Institute for Creation Research, 1974.)
Moreover, every atom consists of powerful opposing forces that would cause disintegration and destruction if there werenít a "binding energy" holding all the atoms together, including the molecules of the human body (BBMS 221). The sustaining power that binds atoms and maintains the orderly and mysterious processes of the universe is the omnipotent Creator who "upholds all things by the word of His power" (Heb 1:3). God by definition is able to do what is necessary to accomplish His will. Thus, the city may remain suspended above the earth or God may separate the city into sections for placement on the earth. Regardless of its location God will insure that the saints will be able to enjoy all the benefits of both the city and the new earth.
17― And he measured its wall, seventy-two yards, a measurement of the man, that is, of the angel.
And he measured: Grk. metreō, aor., to determine the extent of meeting a standard, with the focus on determining dimensions. its wall: Grk. teichos, a wall. See the note on verse 12 above. seventy-two yards: lit. "one hundred forty four cubits" (Marshall). Next, the angel measured the wall and reported that it was one hundred forty four cubits, the square root of which is Ö twelve! Again, the repetition of the number twelve in the narrative is significant. At first glance this measurement seems irreconcilable with the measurement of the wall already given. The solution would be that since the height, width and length of the city were already reported to be equal and the wall was a "great and high wall," this measurement must be of the wallís thickness. The Greek historian Herodotus reported that the ancient city of Babylon had walls 300 feet high and 75 feet thick (Earle). It is very possible that some residences in the New Jerusalem will be located in the wall, just as homes were built into the walls of ancient cities.
a measurement: Grk. metron, a measure, whether linear or cubic. John is careful to point out that the standard of measurement used by the angel is the same as that used by man, or the Israelites in particular, to assure the congregation that his report is accurate and to avoid any accusation that the measurements are exaggerated.
Heavenly Building Materials (21:18-21)
18― And the material of the wall was jasper; and the city was pure gold, like clear glass.
And the material: Grk. endomēsis, the material of a building, structure, i.e., the construction (Rienecker). Marshall translates the word as "the coping." A coping is a finishing or protective course or cap to an exterior masonry wall. There is some difference of opinion as to whether "material of the wall" refers to a decorative cap on the wall, also known as a coping, or the wall itself. of the wall was jasper: Grk. iaspis; not the modern stone. The exact nature of the "jasper" comparison is uncertain, since jasper was a Persian word used for stones of different colors (Robertson).
and the city was pure gold: Grk. cursion, the precious metal known as gold. At any rate the point John makes is that the "material" was "jasper" and the rest of the city was pure "gold." A possible meaning is that the wall was inlaid with jasper creating a glittering effect as a bracelet set with diamonds (Earle). Whatever the nature of the color it would no doubt be beautiful. like clear glass: The clearness of the gold would imply the absence of any alloy. Transparency seems to be emphasized in all the descriptions of the cityís building materials so that the light of God may shine brightly without hindrance.
19― The foundation stones of the city wall were adorned with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation stone was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, chalcedony; the fourth, emerald;
The foundation stones: pl. of Grk. themelios. Seeverse 14 above. John mentions again the foundations of the city wall, and proceeds to describe their construction as being adorned with precious stones. John may have realized that the city before him fulfilled Isaiahís prophecy of the future Zion,
"O afflicted one, storm-tossed, and not comforted, Behold, I will set your stones in antimony, and your foundations I will lay in sapphires. Moreover, I will make your battlements of rubies, and your gates of crystal, and your entire wall of precious stones" (Isa 54:11f).
Johnson offers two suggestions as "sources" for the twelve specific stones in Johnís narrative Ė the jewels on the dress of the king of Tyre (Ezek 28:13), and stones depicted on Israelís tribal standards. These same twelve stones were also found on Egyptian and Arabian monuments connected with the signs of the zodiac, though in reverse order (Earle). However, for John the twelve stones that follow more likely reminded him of the twelve stones on the high priests breastplate, which also bore the names of the sons of Israel (Ex 28:17-20) (Edersheim-Temple 69).
It is important to remember that John simply reported what he saw and used terminology of his experience to describe this glorious and awe-inspiring sight. He certainly had no need to base such a beautiful description on any pagan practice. The use of these stones on pagan monuments should be no surprise considering that Satan likely knows what the heavenly city looks like. The materials used to construct the city could actually be the same as the earthly counterparts and common to the universe that God created. The difference between what is found on earth and what is found in the heavenly city is that earth was subjected to the law of decay imposed through the curse on the world (Gen 3:17ff). Since the Lord God dwells in heaven, no curse operates there, making the building materials eternal and even more beautiful than any on earth.
The first foundation stone was jasper: Grk. iaspis. See the note on the previous verse. the second, sapphire: Grk. sapphiros, a precious stone, generally known as sapphire, but probably not the modern sapphire. The sapphire appears in the Tanakh story as the stone of the paving on which God stood (Ex 24:10). The Roman historian Pliny described it as sky-blue, flecked with gold and most likely the stone now known as lapis lazuli (Barclay). the third, chalcedony: Grk. calkēdon, a green silicate of copper found in mines near Chalcedon (Barclay). It was described as being like the green on a peacockís tail. the fourth, emerald: Grk. smaragdos, emerald, most likely the same as the modern emerald, the greenest of all green stones.
20― the fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolite; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprase; the eleventh, jacinth; the twelfth, amethyst.
the fifth, sardonyx: Grk. sardonux, an onyx in which the white was broken by layers of red and brown. It was used in making cameos. the sixth, sardius: Grk. sardion, a blood-red stone named after Sardis near which it was found. the seventh, chrysolite: Grk. crusolithos, a yellow topaz. The Hebrew word for "chrysolite" means "the stone of Tarshish." It was described as shining with a golden radiance. the eighth, beryl: Grk. bērullos, like an emerald. The best stones were sea-blue or sea-green. the ninth, topaz: Grk. topazion, a transparent, greenish-gold stone. It was often used in the making of seals and gems. the tenth, a chrysoprase: Grk. crusoprasos, an apple green, finely grained hornstone, a variety of quartz and highly translucent. the eleventh, jacinth: Grk. uakinthos, a violet, bluish-purple stone. the twelfth, amethyst: Grk. amethustos, similar to the jacinth, but more brilliant, and its name derived from being regarded as an antidote for drunkenness (Mounce).
21― And the twelve gates were twelve pearls; each one of the gates was a single pearl. And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
And the twelve gates were twelve pearls: Grk. margaritēs, pearl. While the colors and luminescence of the walls and foundations were like precious stones found on land, the gates were of pearl, prompting Stern to quip, "from what size oyster?" The expectation of gates of pearl is mentioned in the Talmud. In explaining the "gates of crystal" in Isaiahís prophecy of the future Zion (Isa 54:12, KJV "carbuncle"), a Rabbinic scholar, R. Johanan, said, "The Holy One, blessed be He, will in time to come bring precious stones and pearls which are thirty [cubits] by thirty and will cut out from them [openings] ten [cubits] by twenty, and will set them up in the gates of Jerusalem (Baba Bathra 75a). In ancient times pearls were highly valued. Yeshuaí comment about the merchant who sold all he had for a single pearl (Matt 13:45-46) reflects common sentiment of the time.
And the street: Grk. plateia, a main thoroughfare, street. In the LXX plateia appears 33 times to render Heb. rechob (SH-7339), a broad open place, a plaza, (e.g., Gen 19:2; Jdg 19:15; 2Sam 21:12; Ezra 10:9; Neh 8:3; Esth 4:6; Prov 1:20; Isa 15:3; Jer 5:1; Ezek 16:24; Dan 9:25; Zech 8:4). Plateia also five times translates Heb. chuts (SH-2351), street (first in Ps 18:42; Isa 15:3; Ezek 7:19; 26:11; 28:23). Due to usage in the LXX it is very possible that plateia is intended to convey a plaza in the city. Every ancient city had a plaza for markets, town assemblies and other gatherings.
of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass: Whatever the likeness to gold there may be, the material is also transparent to permit the light of heaven to shine through.
The Light and the Glory (21:22-27)
22― And I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.
And I saw no temple in it: Apparently John was given a quick tour of the city and he reports that he "saw" no temple, which means that he looked for one and if there had been a temple John would have seen it. In ancient cities the religious temple rivaled the kingís palace for importance. For devout Jews the temple was the most important building in Jerusalem, having dominated the city for hundreds of years. During the long years of the captivity in Babylon Jews longed for a rebuilt temple. The temple was the assurance of Godís presence and protection.
the Lord Ö and the Lamb are its temple: John clarifies his report by assuring his readers that there is no need of a temple because God Himself, who cannot be contained within a single structure (1Kgs 8:27; Acts 17:24), is the temple, making the entire city a place where the saints may worship and enjoy His presence forever.
Taking this description as a straightforward statement of fact presents a puzzle, since there are several references in Revelation to a temple in heaven. Of course, the heaven of Godís throne and the New Jerusalem should not be thought of as synonymous, since in verse two above the New Jerusalem is seen coming down out of heaven. An additional consideration is that the holy city may actually be the heavenly temple since its cubical shape probably served as the model for the holy of holies of the Israelite temple (Ex 25:9; 1Chr 28:11, 19).
23― And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.
And the city has no need of the sun: Grk. hēlios (Heb. shemesh), the sun, the star that is the central body of the solar system, created on the fourth day to "govern the day" (Gen 1:16-19). Its mean distance from the earth is about 93 million miles from the earth, which assures the right balance of heat, light and photosynthesis to sustain all of earth's physical and biological processes. In both the solar system and on the earth "there is nothing hidden from its heat" (Ps 19:6). The text does not say that in the future there would be no sun, only that the New Jerusalem does not rely on it for illumination.
for the glory of God has illumined it: The reference to the "glory" is probably intended here as a euphemism for the Son of God with the following clause forming an Hebraic parallelism. its lamp is the Lamb: That the future dwelling place of the saints is illuminated by the Lamb fulfills the prophetic promise, "No longer will you have the sun for light by day, nor for brightness will the moon give you light; but you will have the Lord for an everlasting light, and your God for your glory" (Isa 60:19). The fact that the city does not need the sun or moon for light does not mean they will not exist in the new heaven (cf. Ps 148:3, 6; Dan 12:3).
When Yeshua said He was the light (John 8:12; 9:5), His disciples probably did not think of him as a power plant producing enough light to continuously illuminate a city of such immense proportions. The comparison to the sun is apt because from 93,000,000 miles away the sun can provide complete light over the surface of the earth and God imposes no utility bill on man for the service. But, to reproduce the same level of light inside structures man spends millions of dollars. God will light His city without cost or effort from its inhabitants. What a powerful lesson! Do you not suppose He can meet the small needs of this present life?
24― And the nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it.
And the nations: The KJV inserts "of them which are saved" after "nations," which is not supported by either the earliest MSS or the Maj-Text (NKJV). Throughout Scripture the term "nations" is used as an ethnic identification of Gentiles in contrast to the 12 tribes of Israel (see 7:9 on "nation"). will walk by its light: The illumination of the New Jerusalem mentioned in verse 23 is repeated, but this prophecy emphasizes the inclusion of Gentiles and their kings in the population, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah, "Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising" (Isa 60:3).
the kings of the earth will bring: Grk. pherō means to bear, carry, produce, or bring. their glory into it: Many disciples might be skeptical about earthly kings or rulers being in heaven since so many have been ungodly. However, there were kings during the Old Covenant period did show respect to the God of Israel and even repent, such as the king of Nineveh (Jon 3:6-10), Nebuchadnezzar (Dan 4:34-37), Cyrus (Isa 44:28), and Darius (Dan 6:25ff). So, too, during the present age many rulers and presidents have embraced the Christian faith.
There is no suggestion that the use of "nations" and "kings" here refers to unregenerate people or reflects a belief in universal salvation. As Mounce observes, a prophecy of the future must of necessity use terminology of the present. Johnís report simply affirms the truth of Paulís declaration that Gentiles have been given access to God by the atonement of Yeshua (Eph 2:13). The spiritual reality, of course, is that in the kingdom "there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female" (Gal 3:28), and thus the saints will all be one community with Yeshua.
25― And the gates of it will not ever be shut by day; for night will not be there;
The illumination of the New Jerusalem mentioned is mentioned for the third time with two additional points. First, there is a reference to the "daytime," which in the present age is governed by the movement of the earth and moon in relation to the sun. Although the Lord may be using the language of the present to describe continuous lighting, the text emphasizes that no night will be "there," i.e. the city, thus implying that the new heaven will provide a normal day-night schedule on the new earth.
The second new detail is that because there will only be day the twelve gates will never be closed, perhaps a contrast to ancient cities where gates were kept closed at night for security purposes. Since the gates shall never be closed the welcoming warmth of the divine light will be cast for hundreds of miles in every direction and there will be complete freedom to come and go, fulfilling the prophecy, "Your gates will be open continually; they will not be closed day or night" (Isa 60:11; cf. John 10:9).
26― and they shall bring the glory and honor of the nations into it;
and they shall bring: Grk. phero, fut. act. ind. See the note on verse 24. Presumptively the third person plural verb refers back to the "kings" in verse 24. the glory and honor of the nations: Yeshua returns to the thought of verse 24 and states again what will be brought into the great city, perhaps referring to the kings as leading the procession into the city when the citizens are first welcomed within its hallowed walls. There is no implication that the believing rulers of the present age would have authority in the eternal kingdom. The "honor" of the nations is also brought, and combined with "glory" clarifies the rest of Isaiahís prophecy, "that the strength of the Gentiles may be brought to thee, and their kings may be brought" (Isa 60:11 DRA).
Modern versions translate "strength" in the Isaiah passage as wealth with the apparent intention that the wealth of the nations will be plundered from the Gentiles and brought into Zion. However, the Hebrew word translated "wealth" in modern versions means primarily strength (as in virility or potency), army, heroes of strength, and mighty men" (BDB 298). The correct meaning is reinforced in the LXX, which renders the Heb. word with dunamis. The intention of the Isaiah prophecy would be that the power of the Gentile nations would be brought to serve Zion, which is emphasized in the next verse, "the nation and the kingdom which will not serve you will perish" (Isa 60:12).
The prophecy portends that the best of the Gentile nations will come to Jerusalem. The reality is emphasized here since obviously the possessions and fortunes of this present life cannot be carried into the next life. The "glory and honor of the nations," then, refers to the saints that come out of the nations and accept citizenship in the commonwealth of Israel. The "glory of the nations," then, does not refer to an intrinsic quality of humanity but the indwelling presence of Yeshua in His people, as Paul says, "But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit" (2Cor 3:18).
27― and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, will ever come into it, except the ones whose names have been written in the Lambís book of life.
and nothing unclean: Grk. koinos means common or profane (Rienecker). and no one who practices: Grk. poieo, pres. act. part., means to do, to produce or to make. The present participle form of the verb indicates the offenders possess a disposition and willful commitment to sin. abomination: Grk. bdelugma is related to "abominable" of 21:8. See 17:4 on "abominations" and 21:8 on "abominable." and lying: Grk. pseudos. See the note on verse 8 above.
will ever come into it: As a counter point to the anticipation of the glory, or the saints, of the nations being brought into the New Jerusalem the reader is reminded of those who will be excluded (cf. Ezek 44:9). A similar statement of those unwelcome in Godís kingdom appears in the closing comment of Zechariahís prophecy of the millennial kingdom, "there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts in that day" (Zech 14:21). The three characteristics of "unclean," "abomination" and "lying" are directly opposite to the glory and light that emanates from the city and that characterizes the holy nature of God. While ethnic groups may have unique differences and make positive contributions to the welfare of mankind, sin is not culturally defined. No nation or people group has the moral edge over any other group. God has one law and one standard for all His children. As Solomon observed, "sin is a disgrace to any people" (Prov 14:34).
except those Ö in the Lambís book of life: God is a picky landlord. Only those who have forsaken the life of sin and are registered in heavenís great book will be permitted entrance. The "Book of Life" indicates a very unique book, a designation that occurs only seven times in the apostolic writings, all but one occurring in Revelation. The heavenly register parallels the practice common in ancient cities that kept a list of citizens according to their class or tribe and in which new citizens were entered and from which degraded citizens were expunged (Mounce).
In the Tanakh the Book of Life represents a census roll of the righteous and is mentioned in Exodus 32:32 and Psalm 69:28 and alluded to in Psalm 87:6; 139:16, Isaiah 4:3; Daniel 12:1 and Malachi 3:16. In the apostolic writings the Book of Life is a registry of heavenís citizens and property owners who were enrolled on the basis of faith in Yeshua (Phil 3:20; Heb 12:23; Rev 13:8, 17:8, 20:12, 15, 21:27). In addition, the usage affirms the certainty of personal knowledge that oneís name is written, as Yeshua told His disciples "rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven" (Luke 10:20).
BAG: Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. trans. W.F. Arndt & F.W. Gingrich. The University of Chicago Press, 1957.
BBMS: Henry Morris, Biblical Basis for Modern Science. Baker Book House, 1984.
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981. Online.
Danker: Frederick William Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. The University of Chicago Press, 2009.
DNTT: Dictionary of New Testament Theology, 3 Vols. Colin Brown, ed. Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.
DSB: Henry Morris, Defenders Study Bible. World Publishing Co., 1995.
Earle: Ralph Earle, The Book of The Revelation. Beacon Bible Commentary, Vol. X. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City, 1967.
Edersheim-Temple: Alfred Edersheim, The Temple-Its Ministry and Services, Updated Edition. Hendrickson Publishers, 1994. Online.
GNT: The Greek New Testament. eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce M. Metzger, Allen Wikgren. American Bible Society, 1966. (NA25)
Johnson: Alan F. Johnson, Revelation. Expositorís Bible Commentary. Zondervan Publishing House, 1983. (Zondervan CD-ROM Version 2.6, 1989-1998)
Juster: Daniel Juster, Revelation: The Passover Key. Destiny Image Publishers, 1991.
Marshall: Alfred Marshall, NASB-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English. Zondervan Pub. House, 1986.
Metzger: Bruce Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament. 2nd ed. United Bible Societies, 1994.
Morris: Henry M. Morris, The Revelation Record. Tyndale House Publishers, 1987.
Mounce: Robert H. Mounce, The Book of Revelation. rev. ed. New International Commentary on the New Testament. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1998.
Rienecker: Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament. 2 Vols. The Zondervan Corporation, 1980.
Robertson: Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament. 6 Vols. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1933. (Parsons CD-ROM Version 2.0, 1997) Online.
Stern: David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary. 5th ed. Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., 1996.
TWOT: Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament. 2 Vols. ed. R. Laird Harris. Moody Bible Institute, 1980.
Copyright © 2011-2017 Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.